The report highlights that socially conscious investors are holding businesses accountable for ESG actions. Almost 75 percent organisations stated that their investors rate their ESG performance
Deloitte India’s ESG preparedness survey found that merely 27 percent Indian organisations feel adequately equipped to meet their ESG strategy and compliance requirements. Furthermore, only 15 percent of surveyed businesses believe their suppliers to be prepared to comply with the organisations’ ESG requirements.
These results underscore the challenges ahead for Indian businesses. While commitment to ESG principles is high, the survey reveals a significant gap in preparedness and action.
The survey conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP (Deloitte India) was rolled out to 150 organisations to assess their readiness for ESG requirements (policies, regulations, disclosures, and compliances) and evaluate their ESG strategies and efforts.
The respondent pool included chief executive officers (ceos), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs), heads of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and management and operations executives. Over 70 percent of these organisations are also listed on the Indian stock exchanges.
From a sector-specific perspective, the consumer industry was found to lag, with only 7 percent organisations indicating robust preparedness for ESG requirements. On a brighter note, nearly 80 percent organisations in the energy, resources, and industrials (ER&I), financial services, and life sciences and health care industries (LSHC) were categorised as either well-prepared or moderately prepared to meet ESG requirements.
Highlighting the mounting pressure from various stakeholders, Viral Thakker, Partner and Sustainability leader, Deloitte India said, "Organisations are grappling with evolving expectations on ESG compliance and disclosure from investors, boards, governments, and consumers. They need to account for emerging global regulations on sustainable finance, climate disclosures, biodiversity, and social and governance dimensions, including gender diversity and living wages, within a couple of years.”
He added, “A robust ESG culture will translate into better top-line growth, cost reductions, reduced compliance burden, increased productivity, and better investment quality, and asset optimisation. ESG is a significant value driver and embedding it into an enterprise’s operations is a key differentiator."
With respect to the challenges, 65 percent surveyed businesses highlighted evolving ESG regulations as a major hurdle in building ESG preparedness, followed by the existence of multiple ESG frameworks, as indicated by 62 percent organisations. A resounding agreement was heard from 75 percent organisations on the need to simplify ESG compliance and enhance ESG reporting procedures.
The rise of ESG in India
The survey report offers an optimistic view of the rising significance of ESG in India. Almost 88 percent organisations perceive sustainability regulations to directly impact their businesses. A majority, over 75 percent, concurred that ESG has become an important boardroom agenda, while 90 percent believed ESG reporting would benefit the business by improving brand reputation.
The report highlights that socially conscious investors are holding businesses accountable for ESG actions. Almost 75 percent organisations stated that their investors rate their ESG performance. As indicated by 71 percent organisations, voluntary participation in ESG ratings is also a growing trend. Interestingly, 60 percent organisations are prioritising establishing ambitious ESG goals for the future, pointing towards a positive trajectory for ESG integration in India Inc.
But how is India Inc. moving from commitment to action on ESG?
While the commitment to ESG seems resolute, the journey from commitment to action is still a work in progress for India Inc. Less than half, only 49 percent surveyed organisations reported a thorough understanding of ESG reporting mechanisms and regulations in India, signalling the need for urgent attention. On a brighter note, 68 percent organisations have made significant progress by formally integrating ESG strategies and mechanisms into their operations. Although 83 percent organisations have designated sustainability leaders, only one-third have both internal ESG champions and sustainability leaders, indicating room for enhancing internal ESG leadership.
On ESG reporting, 80 percent organisations actively reporting their ESG efforts, with sustainability reports leading the way (81 percent), followed by ESG reports (50 percent), and Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) and integrated reports (44 percent). Nearly 75 percent cited that their organisation communicates their ESG efforts through awareness programmes (85 percent), followed by annual meetings (76 percent) and investor decks (50 percent).
On the environmental front, 83 percent organisations have acknowledged the pressing concern of climate change at the boardroom level. Also, more than 80 percent organisations highlighted that they have time-bound public commitments to address issues related to the environment. However, the journey towards achieving net-zero targets appears challenging, with 78 percent participants identifying supply-chain emissions management and 63 percent indicating costs associated with adopting net-zero technologies as potential hurdles.
In the social sphere, over 90 percent organisations allocated a part of their investments towards community welfare programmes. However, the readiness to meet escalating public, investor, and government expectations around inclusion, diversity, and equity is less than optimal. Only 25 percent organisations consider themselves to be well prepared in this regard, with the rest being moderately prepared (45 percent) or somewhat prepared (29 percent). Furthermore, only 27 percent organisations have considered themselves to be industry leaders in employee welfare, with the rest being adequate (53 percent) or below adequate (20 percent).
In terms of governance, a mere 15 percent organisations view themselves to be industry leaders in governance policies for issues such as board diversity, executive compensation, and management ownership. Half of the surveyed organisations indicated a demand from stakeholders for more ESG reporting and transparency, and nearly 75 percent organisations agreed that the board has an appropriate governance structure to oversee the organisation's ESG-related matters.
Additionally, more than 50 percent organisations agreed that the company has formal ESG-linked performance incentives.